Sunday, April 12, 2009

Notes from a Road Warrior

Cue the music.
It’s my feeling you might enjoy this column more if you read it to music. Something like Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” or even “Wagon Wheel,” by Bob Dylan.
Got it going? Then read on, because, after a three-month stay-at-home period, we are, indeed, on the road.
We hadn’t seen any of our kids or grandkids since Christmas, so it’s been a long, winter’s wait. But with Easter break upon us, there was no doubt we were going to visit someone. But who?
Well, let’s see. Younger son, Patrick, lives in North Carolina, where spring has sprung and our newest grandson was waiting to amaze us with all the things he’s learned to do since we saw him last.
Bad dad that I am, I just couldn’t bring myself to go a-sandbagging with older son Colin, who lives with his family in Moorhead, Minnesota, just across the raging Red River from Fargo. I think that trip ought to wait for the full arrival of spring in the great northern plains. From what the natives say, that should be somewhere around the Fourth of July.
So the plan was made to head for Eastern North Carolina as soon as school was out last Friday afternoon. I was pretty sure that was unlikely to happen, but years of marriage have taught me it’s better to remain silent and wait for reality to occur. All last week, I maintained a checklist of “things to do before we go,” that I kept on the kitchen table.
“That’s quite a daunting list you’ve got there,” she said.
“Yes,” I said bravely. “Yes, it is.”
Finally about Thursday, with the list down to a few things that absolutely required both of us to be involved, she acquiesced.
“There’s really no way we’re getting out of here on Friday, is there?”
“No,” I said sagely. “No, there’s not.”
Instead, we ran errands, did laundry and packed bags, remembering as we did that, while we were driving to North Carolina, we were leaving a vehicle and flying back. So we had to travel light.
After a few hours of sleep, we got up very, very, very early on Saturday morning and hit the road. This was not to be one of the meandering, fact-and-fun-filled drives I treasure. There would be no detours for a look at the Indiana Earthworm Museum or the World’s Biggest Hairball in Luck Tree, Ohio. Instead, the plan was to stick to the interstates and go full speed ahead. We took the northern route, that travels through Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia, before entering the Tarheel state near Mount Airy, the town favorite son Andy Griffith used as his model for Mayberry.
“We’re making great time, aren’t we?” she said brightly.
“Yes,” I said cautiously. “We are.”
“I bet we could just drive straight through instead of stopping for the night,” she continued
Not quite what I had in mind, but, again, those years of marriage--and travel together--have taught me that a reasonable night’s sleep, a hotel hot tub and that free breakfast they’re always talking about were not in the cards. Instead, it would be a late-late-night drive, with the main goal being to get to that grandbaby as soon as possible. I knew, then, that I was paying for that no-go Friday.
“Really,” she said. “I’ll drive, too.”
A few minutes later, the reality of that offer came to light, as she spoke to me in that special language we often share late at night, the language called “Sleeplish.”
Me: “Did that sign say route 70 turns left?”
She: “Whxxx? Nfngrx rfng ylp.”
But we finally made it at about 3 a.m. Son Patrick and his amazingly gracious wife, Susan, woke up as we crept into the house, welcoming us and showing us our digs in the guest room/baby room occupied by grandson John. He woke up briefly, then fell back asleep as we settled in, A little later, he woke up again and, seeing us in the bed across the room, decided it was time to play. We, of course, agreed.
Dawn broke as John Sloan--my grandson and namesake--and I dozed off together. Believing as I do, that every encounter should be a learning experience, I began to teach the little fellow how to snore.
Life is good. Live from North Carolina.

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